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My second cruise with RC was out of Galveston. Now that I was an experienced (haha) cruiser I decided to expand my experience and bring home some duty free banana cream rum from Jamaica. Of course, while disembarking I was barraged with warnings about paying the tax on liquor on pain of incarceration, even though it was duty free. Upon seeing the sign directing me to the right I, as a law abiding citizen, went to the table and duly paid my taxes. I was the only one there!! I don't know how many people I saw carrying the cardboard boxes that obviously had liquor bottles in them turn left and exit the terminal. 

Was I a sap to pay the taxes on the rum?

BTW, I know I did the right thing. But how can everyone else get away with not paying?

Steven

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It's one of those things.  You have to ask yourself if it's worth the fine or not.  I think it runs like 3.00 per bottle for the taxes and sadly it's a PITA to try and ship and get around it.  However if it's in a bag the odds are they are not going to stop and search you either.  It's also an American pastime in a lot of ways, figuring out a way to stick it to the tax man.  When I went they had the table and made it all look imposing and such, many people walked past and said "Nope."  

I do know that I am really looking at a bottle of Vanilla Tequila from the port in Cozumel.  Tried a little bit when I was there before and people in the US would be using it to bake with IMHO, it is also thick and nearly a syrup.  Was good stuff for sure but quite expensive so only for sipping.  And if you share it with someone and they toss it back like a shot you smack them on the head and charge them ten bucks for the next one.  A 250ml bottle is about 50.00 US and in a shop right in the port.  

 

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One time I went to Asia and bought a nice piece of jewelry which I had to declare and pay customs/tax.  Could I have tried to sneak it in, or wear it, as many people do?  Maybe, but I am an honest person, so I have no desire to cheat our nation.  By the way, I saw somebody get thoroughly searched --everything removed from suitcase, all items gone through, etc., etc., and so it is much better to declare than take the chance be identified as a cheater.  Also, your item could be permanently confiscated and you might have to pay a fine as well.

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A little different but I was on a flight back from Europe with my 73 year old Mom a few years back. She is a very run-of-the-mill looking grandmotherly type. Very unassuming. I have dual citizenship, she is a British citizen so I don't know if this played into what happened but I breezed through customs with barely a glance from the agent. She was chosen to be searched. She had 2 pieces of Lladro (porcelain figurines) that her sister had gifted her in her suitcase. 4 hours later I had a mother who thought she was going to be deported from the US (she lives here), her hair was a mess, her clothes were rumpled and she was hysterical and in the throws of an anxiety attack. It was an honest mistake on her part. She thought if it was a gift she didn't need to declare it. We know better now and declare everything. Getting picked is just bad luck but when you do it can turn into a fiasco. 

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Couple of years ago we purchased some jewelry onboard that was sold as "duty-free". Upon disembarking the ship we were greeted by a port employee who ushered us directly to the "special" customs room where they had an agent and one other couple. The other couple was tearing their luggage apart trying to find something and the agent asked us if we had the sales receipts of the jewelry items we purchased onboard. My wife, being the organized soul she is, popped open her backpack and pulled out the envelope where she keeps all large item receipts to put in our safe at home. The agent looked at us and the envelope and told us we could go on, did not even look at our declaration papers or bags. He then turned and was giving the other couple a "mild" hard time. Apparently the jewelry shops on-board give the customs folks a list of who bought what and they decided to check a few of us out. Always pays to declare and keeps receipts. The best part, the trip to the customs room skipped all the lines and we were out of customs within 10 minutes. They did not even ask us for our passports!

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Duty free it was.  Texas tax free is another matter.  

You paid no federal duty at CBP but Texas law requires all incoming booze must have state tax collected even if you are transiting through Texas to your home in another state.  

I'd never advocate for someone to ignore the law.  I don't buy booze often while cruising on account of flying but if I am so inclined I avoid doing so on Galveston cruises for this reason.  I always have a Florida cruise on the calendar so I can always buy booze on that cruise.

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My husband and I walked off of an Eastern Caribbean cruise with, um, 24 bottles once 😮. Not all of them were 750 ml, and we had figured everything that we were actually within our allowance between the 2 of us (including where each was purchased). We were still (not surprisingly) directed to customs. We did not argue about the $17 duty that they charged us 🤣

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4 hours ago, stevendom57 said:

Let's say I am sailing from Miami and want to pick up some fifths of rum. I assume I can buy up to five, declare them to customs and not pay anything, duties or taxes?

Each adult in your party has an individual limit on purchases that is typically 1 liter of alcohol but it can vary depending what country you visited.  It's the government so of course it's not a simple answer, but 1 liter of alcohol is a good starting point.

You still have to declare all purchases even if you are within exemption limits.

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6 hours ago, stevendom57 said:

Let's say I am sailing from Miami and want to pick up some fifths of rum. I assume I can buy up to five, declare them to customs and not pay anything, duties or taxes?

You can bring a lot more home if it's made in St. Thomas or other USVI spots, which is great because this stuff is stupid awesome.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/12/2020 at 6:31 PM, twangster said:

You still have to declare all purchases even if you are within exemption limits.

Good rule of thumb when it comes to customs... declare something. With my previous job in aviation, it was my job to collect the customs forms for the crew and consult with the customs agent with any questions or inspections they needed to do. Anecdotally I noticed that the crew bags that got inspected, were the ones who never declared anything on their customs forms 🤣. Since then, I have always declared 😇 

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We always declare everything.  However, We don't list the quantity of items...Just what we paid.  IE. Cigarettes $20.00, Alcohol $35.00.  We have had a Custom Agent ask a time or two how many we bought for the amount listed..We honestly tell them how much we purchased.  We have only been asked to pay duty one time..Of course it was alcohol and with the duty, it was still cheaper then we could buy it at home.  I was told one time by a Custom Agent one that as long as you declare everything...Then its up to the agent, if you are to be charged duty.  But he also said if you don't declare it and we find it...Its going to cost you a lot more.

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1 hour ago, Psycho and Barb said:

We always declare everything.  However, We don't list the quantity of items...Just what we paid.  IE. Cigarettes $20.00, Alcohol $35.00.  We have had a Custom Agent ask a time or two how many we bought for the amount listed..We honestly tell them how much we purchased.  We have only been asked to pay duty one time..Of course it was alcohol and with the duty, it was still cheaper then we could buy it at home.  I was told one time by a Custom Agent one that as long as you declare everything...Then its up to the agent, if you are to be charged duty.  But he also said if you don't declare it and we find it...Its going to cost you a lot more.

Like you I always declare and hope they let it slide when I'm over.  Canada is brutal.  If over by 1ml they charge duty.

The US CBP has always been very forgiving when I've gone over since I was open and honest and declared everything.  Before 9/11 I flew with dozens of wine bottles in carry on.  I declared them all.  CBP asked which was the most expensive bottle and after my response said "Have a nice day".  I have zero problems with CBP but always declare everything.  They can read faces and they know who is lying. 

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